Horus was born in Egypt as a male biologically but found solace in portraying himself as a female. Feminine traits came naturally. When his mother noticed these developments, she realised Horus was going through gender dysphoria. She was heartbroken but accepted the fact and stood by his, sorry by her side. She was now known as Hathor from Horus. 

Hathor was very fond of dancing and acting. So after completion of her secondary school, she decided to follow her passion. Her teacher was a fine human being and never discriminated between her and other students. 

She persuaded a diploma in dance and aced the final exam. She also did a short-term acting course and participated in plays. Hathor’s teacher recommended her name to a couple of them, but she was unsuccessful in finding employment. She felt helpless seeing her mother struggle to make ends meet. People often tromped her and constantly peered into her life instead of using her services. 

After much thought, Hathor and her mom finally decided to relocate. They chose Israel because the country was LGBT-Friendly, and they hoped to lead a better life there, leaving all the memories of the past behind. 

They sold their house and took a small apartment in Israel’s Tel Aviv city. The city welcomed them like it was just waiting for their arrival. 

There were several museums in Israel, a tiny, semi-arid nation on the Mediterranean Sea’s southeast coast. Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus-style architecture was appealing. This city was extremely clean and free of garbage or rubbish.

There were many immigrants from different countries residing there. As a result, the place was known for its dynamic and diverse culture. Hathor knew both the local languages, Arabic as well as Hebrew. Therefore communication was never a hurdle. 

Hathor decided to start her dance classes close to her home. She got pamphlets printed and handed them to a local newspaper agency which delivered newspapers door to door. Outside her house, she displayed a neon signboard advertising her dance class. 

However, for months the doors of her class remained shut. Finally, when she got two students, she hoped through word of mouth, she shall get many more. But, the road ahead wasn’t a cakewalk for Hathor. Life had more bumpy rides planned for her. She did not get more students and had to shut down her classes. She was left jobless yet again.

She received offers for illegal jobs like selling drugs or working as a sex worker, but she turned them down. Her upbringing encouraged her never to give in, even if it meant going without food.

One day, she stumbled over a notice that read, ‘Need Professional Mourners.’ Below that was a slogan printed in dark colour. ‘We weep for your sorrow’.

Hathor was startled when she read this notice because she had never heard of such a job. After a bit of research, she felt the job intriguing and applied without a second thought.

She wore black trousers, a sky blue top with horizontal stripes and dangling earrings that matched her attire and reached the address mentioned in the notice. The receptionist asked Hathor to wait. A few minutes later, the owner called Hathor in.

“May I come in, sir,” Hathor knocked on the door. 

“Yes, please. Have a seat. What brought you here?” He asked.

“Sir, this notice brought me here. I am interested in taking up this job.” Hathor replied.

“Ok. But any particular reason for taking up this weird job? Do you have experience?” He questioned.

“Sir, I don’t think one needs experience to weep. It is a natural process. Moreover, I am an emotional person and can feel others pain. I can do this sincerely. I never knew such jobs existed, but this is an opportunity for me and my mother to survive.” She answered with agony in her voice.

Hathor’s reply and honesty touched his heart, and he immediately hired her as a mourner for NIS 100 to 150 per funeral, depending on whose funeral it was. She bagged the job due to excellent communication skills and empathy.

Now the hurdle was to explain this to her mom. She gathered courage and decided to spill the beans.

On reaching home, Hathor said, though not very excitedly, “Hey, mom, I have got a job.”

“That’s great news. What is your profile?” Mom inquired.

“Ok, mom. I will explain, but please don’t get annoyed. I could see no alternative or had a choice but to take this up, at least for a while till I get something better. A local company has appointed as a mourner.” Hathor replied in one go.

Professional mourners, also called moirologists, are paid a sum to deliver a eulogy and help comfort the grieving family. As mourners, we display grief on behalf of the relatives who couldn’t attend the funeral. I will lead a group, and together we will mourn. The intention behind this for some families is to increase the number of participants. Generally, chief mourners are mother, father, brother, sister or close relatives and I….”

Before Hathor could complete her sentence, her mother blasted,

“What? Mourner? Is that any job? Are you crazy to accept jobs like these? Have patience. You will surely get something good, or your classes will start.”

“Mom, it is already a year since we shifted, but I have not earned any income. I know you are struggling to make ends meet. Well, I can’t ignore that and relax. So please allow me to take this job.” Hathor pleaded.

“But Hathor, don’t you recall how frightened you used to be whenever we attended a funeral? For days, you couldn’t sleep a wink.” Hathor’s mother reminded him of his childhood days.

“Oh, mom, those are the stories of my past when I was a kid. Not anymore.” Hathor replied and smiled.

Hathor’s mother finally agreed, and she started working. She got calls any time of the day, but she reached on time. 

Many applauded Hathor’s services. Many families started approaching her on a personal level. She started earning well and enjoyed this profession. Though her job was to shed crocodile tears, she did get emotional at funerals, and her heart ached for families who lost their loved ones.

One evening, a well-to-do Jewish family approached Hathor to deliver a eulogy and display grief. They agreed to pay NIS 400. 

At a Jewish Funeral, the mourners make a tear in their clothing. This action is called kriah and is a symbol of loss. Women cover their heads with a cloth, while men are supposed to wear a skullcap. The mourners were allowed to wear suits, dresses and business attire but black or any other dark colour. It was mandatory.

So Hathor covered her head with a cloth and wore a black dress. She made a tear in a dark red ribbon, tied it around her waist and reached the funeral ground.

Immediately after the eulogy, she started to sob loudly. It was enough to hold everyone’s attention. A sea of people standing around turned their faces towards her. 

One of the family members rushed and asked, “Why are you shedding tears like this? Is she your relative or a friend? Didn’t we ask you to display grief silently?”

“No sir, she is not known to me. I am sorry.” Hathor apologized and stood in silence.

Her phone buzzed. Omar, her friend, messaged on WhatsApp. 

Omar: Hey, where are you?

Hathor: At a funeral. 

Omar: Oh, I am sorry. Who passed away?

Hathor: No idea.

Omar: What do you mean? 

Hathor: I mean I don’t know her. I have just come to mourn.

Omar: Are you crazy? Call me as soon as possible.

When even after hours, Hathor did not call back, Omar messaged him again. “Are you back home? I was waiting for your call. I need to talk to you urgently.” 

“Sorry. I will call you tomorrow for sure. I am at the funeral.” Hathor replied.

“What? Still at the funeral? Have you built a house next to the cemetery?” Omar asked sarcastically.

“Now that’s not funny. That’s my bread and butter.” Hathor messaged back with an angry emoji.

“Ah! Bread and butter? Are you out of your senses? Ok, I think you are too stressed about your dance classes. Give yourself some time. Everything will be alright. In the meantime, I suggest you should go to see a counsellor. I will accompany you if you wish to.” Omar replied with a heart emoji.

Hathor did not reply. She came home late and went to bed. At 3 a.m., she woke up with a jerk and rubbed her eyes. Her room was pitch dark like never before. Terrified, she switched on the light. There was no one. He peeped into his mom’s room. She was fast asleep.

No sooner than Hathor switched off the lights again, she saw a shadow floating in the room. “Who is this, and what do you want,” her lips quivered as she asked. 

A husky voice answered, “You are not a good soul. Are you earning and enjoying your life on our death simply by insincere mourning? I have come to take revenge.”

Hathor froze. She shivered in fear, and her voice choked. She tried calling her mother but couldn’t. 

Finally, she spoke, “I speak good stuff about the departed soul. I know my feelings are not true, and I shed crocodile tears. But that’s my profession.”

“Sorry, it’s not your original profession. You are a trained dancer and actor.” The hazy image replied.

“So what do you want me to do? Sing and dance at your funeral?” Hathor said in an angry tone.

“Shut up, and don’t you mess with me. Stop. I warn you. If my soul does not rest in peace, I will not allow you to be at peace.” The paranormal interference escalated.

“Look, I did not have a Godfather or influential contacts in my first line of work. I found it arduous to move forward or climb the ladder. Hence I decided to change my profession. Besides, the responsibility of my ageing mother staying with me is on my shoulder.” Hathor’s eyes welled up with tears as she begged for forgiveness.     

“Yes, I comprehend, but I hate lies and crocodile tears.” The lean silhouette roared.

“Look, I am sorry. That’s my job, and I do it for a living. Please don’t harm me.” Hathor pleaded again.

“No, don’t get frightened. I will not harm you, provided you do what I say. Your tears are part of your job, agreed. But I won’t spare those who pretend to be sad and show the world how much they miss me.” The silhouette warned. 

“Bu….but who are those people, and what do you want me to do?” Hathor’s lips quivered.

“Now listen carefully. I am deeply hurt and upset with my son and daughter, who hired you to mourn at my funeral. They stayed two hours away from this city and could not spare a few minutes for their mother’s funeral?” The image said.

The paranormal continued, “When I was alive, my children did not have enough time to meet me. Today when my body has perished and my soul departed, don’t you think they should have taken a few minutes to visit me for the last time? They hired you to mourn on their behalf, and now you will pay the price if you do not get them here.”  

“But how will I do this? I have never met them. They transferred the amount online.” Hathor murmured.

“I don’t know how you are going to do this. But within a month, if my children don’t visit my graveyard, be ready to face the repercussions.” The image moved like an angry wind. 

“Please forgive me. I promise I will leave this job and take something else.” Hathor pleaded.

“Whether you quit this job or not, you will still be held accountable.” saying this, the silhouette vanished into thin air like a smoke ring.

Hathor cursed herself for taking up the profession. She buried her head in her palms and sat on the floor. She felt helpless, and tears rolled down her cheeks.

She called her friend Omar and shared everything. He was speechless and didn’t know how to help her. Omar consoled her and suggested doing what the paranormal asked her to and leaving the profession as soon as possible. Omar also recommended starting a YouTube channel to display her talent and love for dance.

Hathor thanked him profusely and started her YouTube channel. Her dance videos gradually received many likes, and students from all age groups enrolled to learn online. It was convenient for the students as well as Hathor.

Hathor continued getting calls to attend funerals. But she did not go to every funeral. She went and mourned only those she knew.  

A few days later, the image returned to remind Hathor of her task.

“Oh, Soul, why can’t you approach your children directly?” Hathor asked.

“That’s none of your business. Just follow my instructions and do this task. Do it before my anger escalates. I won’t remind you again.” The apparition roared.

Hathor had no choice but to find the children of the departed soul. She tried to find them on social media but in vain. Through known sources, she finally managed to get their addresses. Hathor went to meet the lady’s son.

“Hi, Sir. My name is Hathor, and I am a professional mourner. I need to talk to you about something urgent. Can I come in?” She asked.

“Sure. Please come in.” The son asked her to sit and went to the kitchen to get water.

Hathor scanned the area. Although the hall was huge, it had few furnishings. A three-seater couch with yellow cushions was placed against the wall to the left of the entryway. Books of various genres were arranged neatly on a wall-mounted bookshelf. In the middle was a peanut colour small round coffee table. The wall behind the sofa had his mother’s photo frame garlanded with flowers.

He offered Hathor a glass of water and said, “Ok, tell me what brought you here.”

Hathor cleared her throat and said, “Sir, You had appointed me to mourn your mother’s death and….” The son interrupted before Hathor completed her sentence.

“Yes. But we have paid you a good amount, isn’t it?” The son said, flustered.

“Yes, sir. You and your sister have paid me. I have not come here for money but to give you your mother’s last message.”

“Mothers message? When did she meet you?” The son asked surprisingly. 

“Her soul spoke to me a couple of days back,” Hathor replied.

“Are you crazy? What nonsense are you talking, lady?” He yelled.

“Believe me, sir. I am not lying, nor would I have travelled so far to see you and your sister. Your mother was upset because you appointed me to mourn at her funeral. She wanted her children beside her, and none of you had the time to visit her.” Hathor responded politely.

“Oh Lord, I promise we will visit this weekend.” The son confirmed with a heavy heart.

“Sir, one more request. Please take her favourite flowers and place them on the tomb. Also, kindly spend a few minutes talking to her. She will feel good, and her soul will rest in peace.” Hathor suggested in a low voice.

“Sure. We will place flowers and spend time. I apologize for the inconvenience caused to you. The funeral rituals were to be performed by me, but I chose to hire.” The son said with tears in his eyes.

As promised, her children visited her tomb and sat for an hour. They also placed her favourite purple colour orchid flowers. 

That same night, the soul thanked and bid goodbye to Hathor. While the soul rested in peace, Hathor, too, slept peacefully without any fear or burden.

A couple of years later, when Hathor had to attend her mother’s funeral, her emotions died, and she couldn’t weep. She stood like a lifeless statue. Her mother’s words rang in her ears.

If your tears are dried,
Or if you cannot attend my funeral,
I will not mind.
But, hire no mourners to shed tears,
A gesture, I will not like.
My soul will depart forever,
And my body will be buried,
But don’t repent for not coming,
Your unconditional love and prayers,
Will be enough for my soul to rest in peace.

After placing flowers on the grave, Hathor left the cemetery ground. Days and months passed, and she became accustomed to living alone. Through her YouTube channel, she earned well and was able to manage her daily expenses. 

She, therefore, decided to resign from the company where she was a professional mourner. On a personal level, too, she stopped going to funerals to mourn. 

It was June 2020. Corona was fast spreading all over the world. It was at its peak when Hathor got infected. She got herself admitted to a Government hospital but could not survive due to a severe lung infection.  

Sadly there was no one to mourn her death. The professional mourner, who attended countless funerals, was put to rest by the local body authorities. His friend, Omar, also could not fly to Israel to attend the funeral due to corona protocols.


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Sheela Iyer
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One thought on “Misfortune  

  1. This is an interesting take on the profession of mourning, considering how the profession itself and those who do it are understood very differently in various cultures. It was intriguing to see your take on how having this as a profession could impact someone’s personal life.

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